Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday he intends to release a new statement on Japan's attitude toward World War II, just a day after unveiling plans to revamp the US-imposed pacifist constitution.
The nationalist premier, who swept to power on promises of a more robust diplomacy that will stand up to China, has long been known to favor the toning down of a 1995 apology for wartime aggression directed at Asian neighbors.
Beijing and Seoul, among others, have repeatedly called for Tokyo to face up to its bellicose past and make proper amends for its 20th century warring.
On Friday Abe revealed only that he will revisit the issue at some point in the future, and gave no insight into any new declaration.
"I would like to announce a future-orientated statement that will suit the 21st century," Abe told lawmakers. "On the timing and the content I'd like to think thoroughly hereafter."
The landmark 1995 pronouncement by then-prime minister Tomiichi Murayama was seen as a key step in what many Asian nations say was Japan finally starting to come to terms with its brutal history.
The statement said Japan "through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations," adding the premier felt "deep remorse" and offered a "heartfelt apology."
Abe also said on Friday that Japan-China relations remain one of the most important bilateral relationships for Japan and should be improved through an overall perspective, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei on Friday said China "is aware of Abe's attitude" and again urged the Japanese side to avoid actions that would further escalate the current tension and make sincere efforts to mend bilateral ties.
Abe was propelled to the leadership of his Liberal Democratic Party after playing to the party's right wing and a small but vociferous section of society who feel Japan has been judged too harshly by history.
On Thursday, Abe told lawmakers he wanted to alter Japan's constitution, lowering the bar for future amendments, in a likely first step on the road to changing the definition of the country's Self-Defense Forces.